Its healing waters had been choked by the accumulations of years, so that even the knowledge of its site was lost, when an angel appeared to Abd al Muttalib, as he slept at the gate of the temple, saying:
“Dig up that which is pure!”
Three times the command fell on uncomprehending ears, until the angel revealed to the sleeper where the precious water might be found. And as he dug, the well burst forth once more, and behold within its deeps lay two golden gazelles, with weapons, the treasure of former kings. And there was strife among the Kureisch for the possession of these riches, until they were forced to draw lots. So the treasure fell to Abd al Muttalib, who melted the weapons to make a door for the Kaaba, and set up the golden gazelles within it.
Abd al Muttalib figures very prominently in the early legends concerning Mahomet, because he was sole guardian of the Prophet during very early childhood. These legends are mainly later accretions, but the kernel of truth within them is not difficult to discover. Like all forerunners of the great teachers, he stands in communion with heavenly messengers, the symbol of his purity of heart. He is humble, compassionate, and devout, living continually in the presence of his god—a fitting guardian for the renewer of the faith of his nation. Most significant of the legends is the story of his vow to sacrifice a son if ten were born to him, and of the choice of Abdullah, Mahomet’s father, and the repeated staying of the father’s hand, so that the sacrifice could not be accomplished until is son’s life was bought with the blood of a hundred camels. This and all allied legends are fruit of a desire to magnify the divine authority of Mahomet’s mission by dwelling on the intervention of a higher power in the disposal of his fate.
Of Abd al Muttalib’s ten sons, Abdallah was the most handsome in form and stature, so that the fame of his beauty spread into the harems of the city, and many women coveted him in their hearts. But he, after his father had sacrificed the camels in his stead, went straightway to the house of Amina, a maiden well-born and lovely, and remained there to complete his nuptials with her. Then, after some weeks, he departed to Gaza for the exchange of merchandise, but, returning, was overtaken by sickness and died at Medina.
Amina, left thus desolate, sought the house of Abd al Muttalib, where she stayed until her child was born. Visions of his future greatness were vouchsafed to her before his birth by an angel, who told her the name he was to bear, and his destiny as Prophet of his people. Long before the child’s eyes opened to the light, a brightness surrounded his mother, so that by it might be seen the far-off towers of the castles in Syrian Bostra. A tenderness hangs over the story of Mahomet’s birth, akin to that immortal beauty surrounding the coming of Christ. We have faint glimpses of Amina, in the dignity of her sorrow, waiting for the birth of her son, and in the house of Mecca’s leading citizen, hearing around her not alone the celestial voices of her spirit-comforters, but also rumours of earthly strife and the threatenings of strange armies from the south.